Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top Books, Movies, & TV Shows of 2013

It's that time of year again...time to sum up my favorite new books, movies, and TV shows! If there are any books on this list that you haven't read, you need to read them. Final totals? 13 books. 5 movies. 4 TV shows. They are in no order. Let's go!


1. Grave Consequences by Lisa T. Bergren

2. Lethal Legacy by Irene Hannon

3. Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

4. Love at Any Cost by Julie Lessman

5. The Message on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

6. Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith

7. Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

8. Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

9. Submerged by Dani Pettrey

10. Trinity by Ronie Kendig

11. The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey: Official Movie Guide by Brian Sibley

12. When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason

13. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay


1. Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)

2. Thor: the Dark World (2013)

3. Iron Man 3 (2013)

4. Man of Steel (2013)

5. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (2013)


1. Merlin
2. Arrow
3. Once Upon a Time
4. Psych

There! Looking back over this list, I am amazed by how many wonderful books, movies, and TV shows I discovered this year! Now, I think that if you are interested, there are reviews up of all the books. And reviews of Hobbit and Merlin 5 and Arrow 1 are all on the way. Let me know if you'd like direct links to any reviews!

Note: this isn't an all-comprehensive list...ain't nobody got time for that!

Which books are making your best-of list and which ones from this list will you add to your to-reads or to-sees? :)

The Lightkeeper’s Bride

Author: Colleen Coble

Genre: Romance, mystery

Series: Mercy Falls series

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 292

Time period: 1800s

Publisher and price: Thomas Nelson, $14.99

My overall opinion: An enjoyable read! I’m so glad to finally get back to this series – I read the first one about two years ago, and really liked it, but never managed to finish the others. Until now. I’ll be reading the third one soon! The touch of mystery and suspense in this one made it delightful, along with a sweet romance. I was thankful that the romance wasn’t overkill, and was well balanced by other story elements. The book had a good pace and kept me tied to it. And the characters were great. I liked it!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie: Sound of Music: the Musical

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Genre: Life, classic

Series or set: Musical

Primary actors: Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer

Length: Approximately three hours

Based on: The classic movie with Julie Andrews – but I think this is the Broadway version?

Time period: 1930s

Rating: TV-PG

Year it came out: 2013

My overall opinion: I did quite enjoy this movie! I went in not being quite sure what I should be expecting, but it was a good way to spend my three hours! I watched the TV musical, but it’s coming to DVD at some point. Carrie Underwood was a lovely (though young) Maria, and her singing voice! Oh I loved it. She did a good job with the songs, though I think that no one can ever beat Julie Andrews. The head nun was a black woman, which is entirely inaccurate for the time in history, and for the movie in general – it threw me off. However, she could sing and very well! The kids were all cute and lovable and could sing. All in all? I did enjoy seeing this, and I am not opposed to watching it again someday, even though I didn’t love it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

On Distant Shores

Author: Sarah Sundin

Genre: Romance, war, life, adventure

Series: Wings of the Nightingale

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Historical fiction

Number of pages: 424

Time period: World War II, 1940s

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: One of the best things about this book for me? The fact that I closed it reflecting that the heroine, Georgie, and I would’ve been good friends in real life. She appealed to me a lot as a character, and while I don’t have the same struggles she has, I understood her well and yeah – we would’ve been friends. She’s lovely! John/Hutch wasn’t bad, though I didn’t find myself falling in love with him. There are a lot of details packed into this book, and they all added to the historical/realistic feel overall. There was enough action to keep the story, but not let it get rushed. Another highlight? Seeing Tom and Mellie, from “With Every Letter”! Good book, and I’m glad I bought it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blog Tour: Dear Mr. Knightley

Author: Katherine Reay

Genre: Life, Jane Austen (can she be a genre?!)

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 325

Time period: Present

Publisher and price: Thomas Nelson, $15.99

Passage about the book: Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.
After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

My overall opinion: When Katherine contacted me asking if I’d be interested in writing an endorsement for Dear Mr. Knightley, I was ecstatic to say the least – and not just because I was writing my first endorsement, but also because finally, a book was coming that would incorporate Jane Austen and not be horrid (like the zombie and sea monster spinoffs – haven’t read them but they sound awful). An early copy arrived in my mailbox this spring, and I quickly made time to delve into it. And I was not disappointed. Katherine managed to perfectly incorporate strains of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre into Dear Mr. Knightley while keeping the story moving at a good rate. I’ve read books before that are rather annoying, when put into letter form. This story is in epistle form and it only enhances the delightful story within! I was so caught up in this one. It’s easy to read, easy to love, and most decidedly a book that I highly recommend to all Jane Austen fans. It’s worth buying, y’all! (and if you read it...look on the first page - my endorsement is there!)

**The author sent me a free copy of this book in addition to the advance manuscript, but I didn’t have to review it positively. I wasn’t paid for my review.**

(note: you can find and watch a book trailer on youtube by just looking up "dear mr. knightley" . I am unable to include it here for complicated reasons.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

O Holy Night Comparisons

Well, since it is now post Christmas, there will only be three Christmas song comparison posts this year – but that’s okay. Up now, “O Holy Night” – and the winner surprised me (pleasantly). :)

Celtic Woman – 9


Best words to describe this version include clear, high, and light. As the song progresses, it moves to a louder volume that is absolutely lovely, and full of power. (After listening to multiple versions of this song, I realized that it requires power – and some singers did better than others.) I really love the building notes and volume. This version is one of my favorites!

Katherine Jenkins – 8.5

One really neat thing about this one is how Katherine rolls her notes. She keeps up a good pace – I love her voice! It’s a flowing version. The stringed instruments (I think they’re stringed…) are a lovely accompaniment. She has amazing volume and hits those high notes wonderfully.

Scotty McCreery – 9
Wow. He has such a rich young voice. I love it. His notes are perfect, of course, and the words are fully understandable. I love the even tempo. All in all? This is a beautiful version.

Susan Boyle – 8

This song definitely showcases Susan’s voice! She sure can belt it out – I am very impressed. She’s got a deeper voice than Katherine and Celtic Woman, but still beautiful. She’s also got a lot of loud volume – I feel like this version would be most amazing in person.

Il Volo – 9.5

Having never listened to these guys before, I didn’t really know what to expect…but wow. I loved this one. They’re kind of like Josh Groban or Il Divo. Smooth. Operatic. Powerful. I could listen to this song many times (indeed, I intend to!). Their harmonization is stunning. And I’m giving them an extra .5 for that held note towards the end! Love.

Placido Domingo – 8.5

I feel like he’s the male equivalent of Susan Boyle. But he’s better with this song than she was. He’s really loud and has amazing vibrato. A great voice. This is certainly not a relaxing version. I love the building notes and abrupt stop of background music there towards the end!


Oh dear. I have to choose one. I had several version that I really liked! But I think. Having listened to several again. That Il Volo really does deserve their 9.5 and they win! Close runners up include Celtic Woman (who was winning until Il Volo came along) and Scotty McCreery.

Your thoughts:

Did I mention your favorite version? If not, what version do you love and do I need to listen to it? And if so, which is your favorite?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blog Tour: The Captive Maiden

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Genre: Fairy tale

Series: This is the fourth fairy tale Melanie has retold, and they all tie together with shared locations and characters!

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 302

Time period: 1300s

Publisher and price: Zondervan, $9.99

My overall opinion: I was thrilled to discover that Melanie was writing a retelling of Cinderella, since that has long been my favorite fairy tale. And when I saw the cover, I really couldn’t wait to read it! It was lovely to return to the time and place Melanie has so skillfully crafted, meeting up with old characters and learning to know new ones, and the same with the places. The story had a familiar and comfortable feel to it, giving new twists to the classic fairy tale! I loved the changes that Melanie made. It’s easy to be engrossed in this book, and it’s a quick read. In many ways, it’s the same as other books I’ve read, but it’s different – and better. The whole story is adorable. I really loved the heroine, Gisela – she was sweet, but strong. And it was a delight to read about Valten too! I think it’s amazing how Melanie can make these fairy tales into real-life stories and include God as a big part of it too. Highly recommend her books, especially this one!

Check out my sister Analiese's review - she read it too. :) Click HERE.

Read my reviews of Melanie's other books:
**Melanie Dickerson sent me a free copy of this book in return for my honest review. I wasn’t obligated to post positively, nor was I paid in any way other than the book for this review.**

NOTE: it's only $5.99 at this very moment on Amazon! Great deal, and I recommend that you buy it!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blue Christmas Comparisons

Due to finals and finally getting home for Christmas break, I’m later on getting this second post out than I intended…oh well. So it goes. So, here we go with variations on “Blue Christmas”! :)

Elvis – 8.5

{{Sadly, I'm unable to find a video of this version...weird, right? They won't work. So find your own!}} 

He starts right away, no waiting around for anything! It’s a song that you’ll want to bob your head to. There’s a nice steady beat too. The choir is an interesting touch. A pretty quick pace, and all in all, I’d describe it as cheery.

Michael Buble – 9.5

This version just has a newer feel than Elvis’ does. Michael has a super smooth voice, and his timing is just uneven enough to be catchy without being annoying – does that make any sense? And then that lovely instrument that has such a big part in this version – a horn of some sort? I’m hopeless with identification. After you learn it, and learn his variations, you’ll be singing along! Michael totally sings his heart out and it’s awesome. Summed up? It’s crazy cool. Love this version!

Kelly Clarkson - 9

A very pretty version! The piano is a lovely touch. Kelly has a stunning voice and I really like her tempo too! The song sways along in a beautiful way. This is a fresh take on this song! The musical interlude is really neat too – and this song alone makes me want to buy her newest album, Wrapped in Red! :)

Andrea Bocelli - 9

This version, unlike most others, actually sounds like Bocelli is feeling blue – which is appropriate for the song. It’s also pretty slow. And of course, operatic. Then too, Bocelli sings with Reba McEntire, and they have some cool harmonization. It’s a peaceful version, quieter and almost calming. Very steady.

Blake Shelton – 8.5

This one definitely had a quicker pace, especially since I listened right after Bocelli’s. There was some reflection of Elvis here (and also in Buble’s), but it was bad. I really love Blake’s voice and accent. This version? Fun and light.

Celine Dion – 8.5

I hadn’t listened to anything of Celine’s before, and was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this version! It has a very Christmasy feel from the very beginning. Celine’s voice is older than Kelly’s, smooth and slower than most of the version (except Bocelli’s), and easy to sing along to. I also really liked the background music. Her voice is also lower. A good version.

Glee – 8

I know, I know, me, listening to anything by the Glee cast? But several people online mentioned this as a favorite, so I gave it a shot – and it wasn’t too bad. The guy had a good steady voice, and I really liked the way the choir was done – barely noticeable in the background. This version was almost sleepy. I also liked the variations they included – fitting for the song.


Well. No way around it. Michael Buble’s version won. I really liked Kelly Clarkson’s and would list her as the runner-up, but Michael’s – it’s just so crazy and fun and I love it!

Your thoughts:

Did I mention your favorite version? If not, what version do you love and do I need to listen to it? And if so, which is your favorite?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

TV Show: Once Upon a Time Season 1

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Genre: Fairy tale, fantasy, life, romance, adventure

Series or set: Once Upon a Time

Number in series: 1st

Primary actors: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Robert Carlyle

Length: 22 episodes, each 45 minutes (about 15 hours)

Based on: Classic fairy tales. All of them.

Time period: Present, fantasy

Rating: TV-PG

Year it came out: 2011

My overall opinion: Look at this, y’all! I finally got to watch Once Upon a Time and can now say, without any reservations, that...I’m addicted. Totally, utterly, completely. Which is rather sad, but also entirely the truth. What can I even say about this show? I don’t know where to start.

I loved every minute spent in the fairy tale land. Figuring out what fairy tale was being retold was always fun, and for the most part, I loved the unique spin taken on each. And then seeing the characters, their similarities and differences, moved forward to present day was fascinating.

The evil queen was very evil and couldn’t have been cast more perfectly. She had just the right evil smile. Emma, who wasn’t a fairy tale character really at all, was also well-cast. I greatly enjoyed her as a person, and I do admire her for the most part. She’s a really neat person. I loved Mary Margaret aka Snow White - you don’t get many people sweeter than her. And she managed to be super sweet yet not sickeningly sweet, which I really appreciated. And then David aka Prince Charming - while I didn’t always approve of how he handled his real-world relationships, I did all in all like him.

Who else was of importance…oh! Henry, of course! A sweet boy, though not the best of actors, I didn’t think. He did well overall though. And Ruby aka Red – I really liked her too, strange as that may sound-seem-be. Her fairy tale was really cool, and she’s so pretty! Mr. Gold aka Rumplestiltskin - quite alarming, and a truly menacing and mysterious character. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to feel sorry for him…he seems good, and then he does something horrid and seems bad. So I don’t know.

Really, my only true problem with the show is the CG, which stuck out even to me as being quite bad. Often the use of a green screen is clear from the sloppy edges on the characters, and the animated beasts are also pretty awful. However, if you can ignore this, the show is lovely. And also, I love the music.

So, all in all? I love Once Upon a Time and can’t wait to watch Season 2! I highly recommend it for fantasy lovers, anyone with a lot of time (which I don’t have…yet I still managed to watch this somehow), and anyone who wants to know just how the fairy tales actually happened.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie: The Terminal

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Genre: Comedy, life

Primary actors: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Length: Two hours

Time period: Present

Rating: PG-13 (though IMHO, it deserves more of a PG rating)

Year it came out: 2004

My overall opinion: It’s a heart-warming movie, that’s meant to be a comedy but is a little too heart-touching to be that! It really ambles along quite peacefully, sprinkled well with humor and moments to make your heart smile. There is a little swearing, hence the rating, but for the most part, I’d recommend this one if you need a relaxing, easy-to-watch film.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Movie: Jane Eyre

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Genre: Period drama, classic, romance

Primary actors: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench

Length: Two hours

Based on: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Time period: 1800s

Rating: PG-13

Year it came out: 2011

My overall opinion: Now THAT is a question. What did I think of this movie? Well, being me, I made
notes as I watched. So here they are. I’m assuming all my readers already know this classic story.

Possible confusion: Starting in the middle of the book (with St. John), then skipping a bit between that and the beginning was vaguely confusing even for me, and I know the book very well. I think that doing the story in order, or possibly just one skip, would’ve been better. For someone who doesn’t know the story at all, this could possibly be very confusing.

The girls: All the girls in this are frightfully plain. I know, it’s simply dreadful of me to judge them all on appearance alone, and their personalities were quite nice, but St. John’s sisters and Jane herself were all very plain girls, not pretty in the least.

The speed: I mention this several times in my notes, things that are flown over. Jane Eyre is a large book of several hundred pages, and needs a movie of some length, a minimum of three hours, I think. A two-hour movie was a bad decision and entirely fails to include a few pivotal scenes, and to really show how deep the friendship between Helen and Jane was.

Mr. Rochester: In a word, “overgrown.” And yes, I’m going purely physical appearance again. That was my impression from the first time I saw him. Having him shave, and regularly, would’ve greatly improved his appearance. At the end, too, he was far too overgrown to be appreciated, so to speak. In general, he wasn’t a very bad Mr. Rochester though, but like I said, the whole movie was rushed and we never got to know him that well.

Jane: Was plain. Not that Jane is supposed to be pretty, though. Considering that she’s the title character, she did a good job with the part. I neither loved nor hated her.

Gore: At one point, a surprising amount of blood was shown, and while that really didn’t bother me all that much, it did seem like a rather surprising amount considering this is a period drama. That may be just me though.

Scene skipped: I wasn’t very happy that they skipped one of the most memorable scenes from prior movies and from the book. Remember when Bertha visits Jane’s room shortly before her near-wedding and tries on her veil? Here, we hardly saw Bertha, except for one scene. But I think that the scene I’ve just described is quite an important and mysterious one in the book, and definitely shouldn’t have been cut. Then too, there’s the fire scene. While it is true that in the book, Jane is told about it after the fact and wasn’t present there, there are often flashbacks in other movies to the scene so that you, the viewer, can fully picture it. Here, Mrs. Fairfax simply told Jane about it. I think this was perhaps a part where they attempted to save money, when spending a little and doing the scene would’ve resulted in a better movie.

The ending: I wrote down that it was slightly abrupt, unexpected, inconclusive, and all-around unsatisfying. I wasn’t very happy with it, I’m afraid. It left a good deal more up to chance than I should have preferred, and came around altogether too fast.

Soundtrack: It was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to such a beautiful soundtrack for a couple of hours!

So. My overall opinion? It wasn’t really a bad movie. I didn’t love it though, and was a little disappointed. And it was definitely way too rushed to really be one I loved. If you’re a Jane Eyre or a period drama fan, yes, watch it. I’m glad I did. However, I am far from desperate to go out and buy it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

TV Show: Downton Abbey Season 1

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Genre: Period drama, life, family

Series or set: Downton Abbey

Number in series: 1st

Primary actors: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens

Length: 7 episodes, each 45 minutes (except two that are about 65 apiece)

Based on: A real life story, at least in part, I believe…y’all probably know better than I do?

Time period: Early 1900s (just before World War I)

Rating: Unknown…prolly PG-13 in movie ratings

Year it came out: 2010

My overall opinion: I enjoyed it! I always knew I would, but sure enough…I was right. All in all, it was a good show and I enjoyed getting to know all the characters. And I’m definitely excited to watch Season 2! There was a little homosexual content, specifically in the first episode, that kinda ruined that whole episode for me – it was disgusting. Nothing explicit, but still enough to be stomach-turning in a horrid way. Other than that, for the most part, it’s fairly clean. Mary is an interesting leading lady, and getting to know her, and indeed, all of the family was a lot of fun. I’m definitely excited to see where it all goes in the next season! And it ended on such a cliff-hanger with the beginning of World War I – ooo yeah. Anyway, so yeah – good show! Not perfect, didn’t love it, but worth my time.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TV Show: Psych Season 2

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Genre: Crime, mystery, suspense

Series or set: Psych

Number in series: 2nd

Primary actors: James Roday, Dule Hill, Timothy Omundson

Length: 16 episodes, each 45 minutes

Time period: Present

Quote(s): There was that awesome moment when Gus’s head was described as a chocolate covered honeydew… ;)

Rating: TV-PG

Year it came out: 2007

My overall opinion: Honestly, who doesn’t love Psych?! This season was no exception. We watched a dozen episodes in two days and it never got old, at least, not to me. Gus and Shawn have the best friendship ever, and they’re comical. Jules is delightful, and really – all the episodes just make me happy. :) Look out, there are occasionally a few swear words, crude jokes, or slightly inappropriate scenes thrown in – however, these are fairly rare and this show is well-worth your time.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie: The Lucky One

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Genre: Chick flick, life, family, romance

Primary actors: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling

Length: Two hours

Based on: the book by Nicholas Sparks, I think

Time period: Present

Rating: PG-13

Year it came out: 2012

My overall opinion: Not bad! Hmmm. I guess what struck me most was the way Zac walked – it was kinda weird. But that’s probably just me. Overall? I liked it, other than a few scenes. The ending was a little melo-dramatic, I thought, but it was a sweet story and moved along at a good pace, while still being laid-back and peaceful. A good movie for filling an extra evening.